|As with other subjects of possible terrorist use, this article gives capabilities and policies and general technical characteristics, but deliberately does not go into detailed operational usage techniques. Do not attempt to use any device described here. If you are threatened by one, move away from it and call the appropriate civilian or military emergency response agency.|
Boobytrap is not rigorously defined, but generally has two characteristics:
- it is triggered by some action of the victim, such as pulling a trip wire, stepping into a hidden pit, or picking up an object that holds down the trigger.
- It has some aspect of being improvised; military manuals are not infrequently titled "mines and boobytraps"; land mines are victim triggered but are purpose-built
Victim triggering is the origin of its name, which derives from the booby, a clumsy bird of the Southern Hemisphere. The term came into use by American troops in World War II in the Pacific who observed the bird and, in a black-humored way, used its example to describe people who triggered boobytraps.
A boobytrap need not be explosive; simple but effective boobytraps include punji stakes, or sharpened pieces of bamboo concealed in grass, or camouflaged pits into which the victim falls.
- Pressure, such as stepping on a triggering mechanism.
- Tension, as in pulling on a loose trip wire or rope
- Tension release, such as breaking a taut trip wire
- Fall, as in walking onto loose branch camouflage over a pit
- Small arms ammunition; think of a wire that pulls the trigger of a preplaced gun, or mechanisms for firing individual bullets
- Sharp objects
- Mechanical force, such as bent-back tree branches or bamboo stems, perhaps augmented with heavy or sharpened objects
- Falls and difficult terrain: even a tank cannot climb out of a steep-sided concealed ditch